Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two Kitchen Sessions

Happiness is...

...reading a good book and baking a good bread, both in the same afternoon.

The current stack from the library

The book in question is the latest installment of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. There are times when you are just not in the mood for hi-falutin' writing, literary flourishes or subjects that give you sleepless nights; when all you want is to hear a good story and close the book with a feeling that all is well with the world. This series is for those times. I adore the "traditionally built" Mma Ramotswe and her little white van and her wise and kind heart, and it is a pleasure to see her at work in her detective agency in Botswana. I read this book while waiting for the bread to rise and proof.

The bread in question is Light Wheat Bread that I bookmarked ages ago from Smitten Kitchen. I've been looking for a nice sandwich loaf, and this recipe looked just right, meaning that I usually have all these ingredients on hand.

The recipe calls for 4 cups flour in all, and I used the following proportions:

1½ cup bread flour +
1½ cup white whole wheat flour +
1 cup whole wheat flour

So while the bread contained enough bread flour to make it airy and soft, it also contains more than 50% whole wheat flour to make it tasty and nutritious.

I followed the recipe closely. One important thing I learned while making this bread was the windowpane test used to determine if the bread has been kneaded long enough. Now I realize that I have not been kneading bread very well all my life. Hmm. You live and you learn, right?

The instant yeast worked its magic in the damp heat of my kitchen and the bread rose quite dramatically in much less time than was specified in the recipe. It took only 20 minutes to get from this...

to this...

Here's the loaf, chubby as can be.

Look, I made sandwich bread!

The results were terrific- the bread was soft and tender with a nice crust, just like you want sandwich bread to be. I'll be making this again and again. We made brie, tomato and arugula sandwiches with freshly baked bread for a light summer supper.

I'm sending this post to Madhuram's Whole Grain (Eggless) Baking Event. The theme this month is Whole Wheat.

*** *** ***

I signed up for Taste and Create this month, the event in which participants are paired up and try a recipe from each other's blogs. I was paired with Katie of One Little Corner of the World. Katie lives near St. Louis and her blog has many references to restaurants in this area; I found some new restaurants that I would like to try.

It was a little bit challenging to find a meatless recipe on Katie's blog, but I zoned in on her Father's Day meal and the chimichurri sauce - I've always wanted to try making this. This sauce of fresh herbs is perfect for summer dining.


I started off following Katie's recipe exactly but ran into a little snag. It turned out that the amount of herbs etc. was too small for my large food processor bowl, and my sauce wouldn't really come together. So I added a handful of walnuts to help the sauce along, and in the process, invented this chimichurri pesto of sorts (now I'm annoying people on two continents with this unholy fusion, I'm sure). But it tasted great!

I made some vegetable-kidney bean-cheese empanadas to go with the sauce. The empanadas were tasty but I definitely need to tweak the recipe some more, so I'll post it at some later time.

see you in a few!


  1. I have heard so much abt McCall Smith in the past few months, i must get myself a copy from the library soon... The bread looks chubby indeed!

  2. I've been looking for that book since I watched the series with the same name on HBO (or showtime??). Bread looks soft & delicious.

  3. Hi Nupur,

    I am silent reader of ur blog , every time for new recipes I wonder how u make it so perfectly (without spoiling ;))
    What is logic behind perfect cooking?
    And also its more surprising being maharashtrian u cook so many other varieties

  4. You know- I must try my hand at baking bread- I have been dying to but never have. The loaf looks lovely- it must feel satisfying baking your own bread, no?
    I found this Argentinian grocery store/restaurant near my place- I bought a dry herb mix to make chimchuri with. Your version looks fresher- will try this.

    I agree completely on your take on the detective series books..I also started reading the homemade kitchen and was half way through it- when somebody placed a hold on my copy and I had to return it..:( You reminded me to borrow it again..:)

  5. I meant The Homemade Life (not the homemade

  6. Anybody who bakes such perfect bread at home has officially arrived in my book:)
    Very cool blog btw!

  7. Thats a beautiful bread you baked Nupur. Lovely, well done.

  8. LOL...that is one chubby happy loaf...:D. How is the book 'Teatime for the tradionally built'..seems interesting to me...

  9. Wow, that loaf looks professionally made!
    I love Alexander McCall Smith's books - try his Scotland Street series, those books are also a delightful read. Perfect for the summer - or long airplane rides.
    I'm going through a phase right now of re-re-reading PG Wodehouse - and am thrilled to see that I find them as funny as ever!

  10. That bread looks so gooood! Waaaah my broken oven, i am missing making breads at home the smell.

  11. What a gorgeous loaf Nupur! Thanks for the tip on the windowpane test too! I love baking yeast breads, but don't fit it in as often as I'd like.

    Those empanadas look great too - can't wait to hear more about them!

  12. that bread is so chubby and proud of it! now u have made me want to try it too!!

  13. What a lovely looking bread Nupur! Am in complete awe! Am still struggling with baking the perfect bread ... and thanks for sharing that link ... a great help. :-)

  14. Beautifully raised and perfectly baked bread. Love the stack of those cookbooks!

  15. Nupur, that loaf looks AMAZING! I havent baked bread in a while, but I'm going to use my oven again this weekend just to make that bread! I dont think I'll be able to proof the dough as quickly as you did, though... it isnt a warm summer here in Shrewsbury :(

  16. I have been reding your recipes for years silently, but this bread is the ultimate, and I couldnt resist writing to you and praise you. keep it up and CHEERS!


  17. that's one damn goodlooking loaf of bread!! have a happy weekend!

  18. Gauri Gharpure- It is an enjoyable read and a refreshing change from the usual, that's why everyone is talking about McCall Smith, I think.

    Pavani- I don't get HBO so I can't see the series :( but the books are fun!

    Poonam- The recipes are FAR from perfect, I assure you! Just in this post, I described how I messed up a simple sauce, for instance :)
    I wouldn't know the logic behind perfect cooking. You just get better with practice, I suppose.

    Lavanya- Baking bread is definitely an enjoyable activity and very satisfying when you get good results.
    I would say chimichurri definitely needs the bright taste of fresh herbs; dry herbs are OK for cooking but not so great for fresh condiments, I think.

    Ranjani-Thank you :) and it is a simple and idiot-proof recipe, so I can't really take the credit for the bread turning out well!

    Shilpa- Thanks :) it was fun to make this, I'm so happy it turned out OK.

    Rajitha- The book is a great read, just like the others in that series.

    Kamini- I haven't read the 44 Scotland Street ones yet, but I did read and like his Isabel Dalhousie series.
    I re-read some Wodehouse recently and like you, loved them as much as ever :)

    Soma- Oh, a broken oven :( I'm sorry to hear that and I hope it recovers soon!!

    Cathy- The windowpane test was really a useful tip because I always knead by hand and it takes quite a bit longer than by machine.

    Nags- Go ahead and try the recipe, it is an easy one and works well.

    Sharmila- I'm sure with a little practice you'll be making fantastic breads! I'm getting better slowly as I make them more often.

    Divya Vikram- Only 2 of the books are cookbooks, others are assorted novels etc. but I am enjoying them all :)

    Shyam- Please let me know how your loaf turns out!! A slow rise will only make it tastier :)

    Sumitra- Thank you so much!


  19. Nupur, that loaf looks perfect! Now if only I had bread flour...but I am going to make me some bread pretty soon. You cannot look at that loaf and not want to run to bake!

  20. Oh wow.....what an awesome collection of books...bread looks superb soft and yum....

  21. Lovely bread. Looks so good .

  22. Nupur- Actually with the dry herbs the chimchuri reminds me of pickle whereas your fresh one is reminiscent of chutney (if that makes sense)..
    And I agree with Kamini, the Scotland Street series is also a fun read..It has more of the Isabel Dalhousie feel because it is set in Edinburgh..

  23. The bread looks fab! I love the smell of fresh bread wafting thru the house and what better if there is a good book in hand?!

  24. I love no.1 ladies detective agency because it reminds me of our trip to Botswana. We visited Gabarone and the village of Ramotswa, where we met Kgosi Seboko, the first sub-saharan female tribal chief..

  25. Hi Nupur,

    I saw your "Corn Cob gravy" recipe over at sailusfood and want to try it. I have a bag of frozen sweet corn, do you think I can try the recipe with this?


  26. madteaparty- Thank you :) I think regular maida would be fine in place of the bread flour, Anita.

    Kitchen Flavors- Thank you :)

    radha- Thanks!

    Lavanya- Oh I see, that makes sense and the dry herb variation sounds interesting.
    I'll start on the Scotland Street series this month, I'm looking forward to reading it :)

    Sangeetha- Yes, the smell of baking bread is unbeatable!

    veggie belly- Oh how interesting that you got to see Botswana for yourself.

    Christina- I think frozen sweet corn would work fine although I have not tried it myself.

  27. Oh Nupur, thanks for reminding me of Mma Ramotswe. I read the first 4 parts when I was living near a public library and after we moved, it went completely out of my radar. I loved them, must get the newer installments.

    Your bread looks perfect. I've reconciled to the fact that I can't bake breads at home :(


  28. I don't see how you could possibly annoy anyone with the gorgeous empanadas and pesto, Nupur! Looks delicious! But I am *really* drooling over your bread. That is one stellar loaf!!! Great job!!! :)

    PS -- I love Dale the hiker :):)

  29. You've been baking a bit. :)
    I especially like the way your loaf looks; almost bursting forth with goodness.

  30. That bread looks superb - I bet there are factories wishing they could make a loaf that looks that good - and I bet it smelt wonderful - what a great aroma to envelop you while reading a good book

  31. Thanks for partnering with me this month! I had fun looking through your blog! It is great to try new food. Have a great day!!

  32. Hi Nupur, first time here, Nice blog. will visit again soon :)

  33. That's a beautiful loaf of bread! And I love that series of books, too. They are gentle, funny, and yet such good stories.

  34. Mamatha- There are a bunch of newer books in that series, all as fun to read as the first.
    Why can't you bake breads at home? Did you encounter a recipe disaster that's putting you off? You will definitely get good results with a reliable recipe so please don't give up :)

    Linda- The loaf really was a success, Linda, it stayed soft and fresh in the fridge for days! I just ate the last slice yesterday.

    Aparna- I'm on a baking spree and hope to bake a couple of things this week too!

    Johanna- That's so true- it is the aroma of baking bread that is the most rewarding thing!

    Katie- I enjoyed looking through your blog too! :)

    Faiza Ali- Welcome!

    Lydia- They really have a gentle and kind touch that is rare in books!

  35. I have read the whole Ladies Detective series and love each one of them!

    That is one perfect loaf of bread - kudos!!

  36. I've been a silent reader for a while, but the Alexander Mccall reference drew me in (I grrew up in botswana you see;-)!)- and that chubby loaf - it is SO cute, I swear it looks like one happy little guy :-). That bread looks perfect. I just bought the book Artisan bread in 5 minutes...but I'm nervously holding it afar...

  37. One, that loaf sure is chubby! I'd like to cut a thick slice and slather it with butter and eat it just like that!

    And two, Alexander MsCall Smith is so cool--I love The no.1 Ladies' Detective Agency and The Right Attitude to Rain. Thanks for reminding me!

  38. I have had Deb's bread loaf bookmarked for a while and finally made it this weekend, and it came out perfect, just like yours. And after doing the windowpane test, I realized what a crucial step I've been missing in all my prev baking episodes. And the stupid me started baking the bread at 11:30PM Sat night! Slept with the lovely aroma of bread filling the apt at 3AM! :-)
    I have 'A Homemade Life' and 'In defense of food' waiting for me at the library today :)

  39. Miri- Thank you :)

    Zaara- How fun that you grew up in Botswana! I've never really read a proper bread making book...all my experiments have been from recipes on other blogs. I've heard many good things about that book.

    Saee- That's what we did, ate thick slices with butter or sometimes raspberry preserves.

    Priya- It is really a good recipe, isn't it? We know to knead better now :) thanks to the windowpane test. Baking bread in the middle of the night?! :D You are too much!
    A Homemade life was a easy and relaxing read. There are so many recipes in that memoir that I wanted to make right away.

  40. Am eager to try this recipe out. I follow your updates and recipes very regularly. They are a delight. :)
    Is bread flour the same as maida? Or is it something else? If not, is it available at your regular grocery store?
    Thanks for helping!

  41. Anonymous- Bread flour is a little different from maida (all-purpose flour), it has a higher gluten content which is perfect for making bread. It is available in grocery stores in the US but I don't know about other countries.
    Read this article to find out more.

  42. Hi Nupur, thank you so much for sending across this lovely/healthy bread for the Whole Wheat event. It's the chubbiest bread I've ever seen. I'm just back from my vacation, so very sorry about the late acknowledgment of the entry. Will post the round up ASAP.


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